Art Nest: a home for public art explorations
Every year since 2016, TOAF has invited established artists to bring large-scale installation masterpieces to be seen by 150,000 Fair-goers at Nathan Phillips Square.. In 2019, we shifted our focus inward by commissioning our 2017 award-winning emerging artist, Chason Yeboah, to create her first large-scale public art installation titled “Home Birth”. This was a pivotal moment in Chason’s career, pushing her to transform her artistic practice of miniature sculptures by creating a life-sized monument that commanded engagement in an interactive, welcoming space. Notable attendees included Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory, who had an intimate discussion with the creative community on the nuances of the female birth experience. Chason overcame challenges, experienced rapid professional growth, engaged in rich conversations with viewers, and benefitted from immediate feedback. She was inspired to continue creating public works, received invitations to gallery shows, participated in a video project, and was highlighted in blogTO.
TOAF’s curatorial team is inspired to build on the success of Chason’s story and to nurture the development of more artists who wish to enter the public art realm at such a large scale. Emerging artists, especially those in priority groups (BIPOC, Disabled, Newcomers) who face additional barriers to inclusion and success, need viable opportunities to be challenged to experiment, take risks, scale their vision, and push the boundaries of their practice.
At a time when so many ideas about monumental public art are being questioned and literally dismantled, Art Nest will help redefine the purpose of public art as accessible, impactful and reflects lived experiences with engaging temporary monuments.
Art Nest 2023
2023 Art Nest featured commissioned artwork by five artists responding to the structure, architecture and meaning of Nathan Phillips Square.
Curated by Fatma Hendawy Yehia
Participating artists: Kristi Chen, Michelle Cieloszczyk, Rana Nazzal Hamadeh, Studio Rat, Stephanie Singh
Photography by Shane Fester.
From the Curator
Toronto holds inextricable layers of cultural diversity that make up the unique narratives and histories, including those of several marginalized and precarious communities. Public spaces in Toronto tend to reflect the city’s temporality, particularly as the pace of development has intensified over the past years. As a result of this dynamic, artists are often occupied with finding ways to activate and revitalize public spaces.
This year, Art Nest focuses on these narratives of precarity and diversity and how they overlap in Toronto. The artists in this exhibition share their personal and collective histories and use sustainable materials to immerse and engage us within this particular public space. They create an opportunity to contemplate Toronto as a place where differences are celebrated as a concept, while not yet fully activated and experienced within the public realm.
– Fatma Hendawy Yehia
Jasmine Scented Garden, 2023, jasmine scented incense sticks, douglas fir plywood, baltic birch plywood and greenhouse, 73″ W x 99″ L x 82″ H.
Kristi Chen is a multidisciplinary artist utilising sculpture and installation to explore the nature of identity, diaspora and the recultivation of lost familial archives. A recent graduate from OCAD University with a bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture/Installation, she has showcased across Toronto and Ontario in various sites from a farm to a greenhouse. She has shown at the Downtown Haliburton Sculpture Exhibition, ON (2023), Between Pheasants Contemporary, ON (2023), Art Gallery Mississauga ON (2022), Artscape Gibraltar Point ON (2022), Elora Sculpture Project, ON (2022), Xpace Cultural Centre ON (2021), Good Family Farms, ON (2021), Abbozzo Gallery, ON (2021) and the J-spot x the plumb (2021). In July 2023, this will be Kristi’s first exhibit in the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair with Art Nest.
Carapace, 2023, silicone and steel, 17.5″ W x 17.5″ L x 72.75″ H.
Michelle Cieloszczyk is a Toronto-based visual artist. She graduated with a BFA in Sculpture/Installation from OCAD University in 2019. She has been awarded the Haydn Davies Memorial Award, Best of 3D Works Award and the Most Innovative Use of Material Award at TOAF. She won the 2017 First Capital Realty Sculpture Competition; her public sculpture, CAN, was commissioned for 85 Hanna Avenue in Toronto. Michelle received grants from TAC, OAC, and CCA in 2021. Michelle has exhibited at Myta Sayo Gallery, Xpace Cultural Centre, the plumb, Propeller Gallery, Downtown Haliburton Sculpture Exhibition, Elora Sculpture Project, Nuit Blanche TO, London Culture Days, Good Sport Gallery, Long Winter, Yorkville Village Arts Festival, Red Head Gallery, and Main Street Gallery.
Rana Nazzal Hamadeh
105 Threads, 2023, textile on concrete.
Rana Nazzal Hamadeh is a Palestinian artist and organizer living between Ramallah and Ottawa on unceded Anishinaabe territory. Her photography, film, and installation works look at issues related to time, space, land, and movement, offering interventions rooted in a decolonial framework. Rana’s practice is informed by the knowledge emerging from grassroots movements for justice, both in Palestine and across Turtle Island, using memory and story to engage intimately with broad concepts Rana received her Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Toronto Metropolitan University and is currently conducting research on Palestinian food practices during the Intifadas.
Soft Monument, 2023, reclaimed L.D.P.E plastic sheeting, wood, air, axial fan, misc., hardware, 2′ W x 13′ L x 10′ H.
Studio Rat is an emerging creative practice pursuing research and experimental design work between the cities of Toronto and Montréal. Studio Rat was founded in 2018 as a site for investigations on plastics, inflatables, and community building between work-partners Dominique Di Libero (b. Montréal, 1997) and Emily Allan (b. Toronto, 1997). The duo’s educational backgrounds in interior design provide an understanding of the aesthetic & technical language of interiors which they reflect in their installation work with Studio Rat through a practice that is committed to DIY fabrication techniques & resource-sharing rooted in circular design principles. Presently, Studio Rat is interested in exploring what new relations can emerge between plastic, craft and art and is focusing their research around experimental models of creative reuse.
a seat at my table, 2023, Table base: ash wood, India ink stain, OSMO black oil, OSMO polyx matte oil, Top Slab: resin slab immersed with Organics from Jamaica: botanicals, plants and spices, 72”L x 34”W x 29”H.
Stephanie Singh is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary textile designer. Currently in her final year of graduate studies at OCAD University in the Master’s of Interdisciplinary Arts, Media, and Design, her work focuses on sustainable one-use plant materials and transforming them into timeless forms.
Drawing inspiration from the beauty and diversity of Caribbean culture and the natural world, her current work pays homage to Jamaican culture and material experience through her childhood, reminding her of the place she calls home. The connections with preserved botanicals, spices, and fruit connect to her relationship with the natural world, exploring memory, love, care, healing and plant consciousness. Through her intricate and visually striking pieces, Stephanie invites viewers on a journey of discovery and delight, where storytelling experiences are captured. Singh’s works have been exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in the “Canada Modern Exhibit” and received admiration from art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.
Fatma Hendawy Yehia
Fatma Hendawy Yehia is an Egyptian-Canadian curator, based in Toronto since 2017. Yehia graduated in 2020 from the Master of Visual Studies Curatorial program at University of Toronto. Since 2008, Fatma held different positions at the New Library of Alexandria, including Head of Permanent Exhibitions (2010-12). She was the Assistant Curator at the AGYU, Toronto (2021-22). She was Guest Curator at Images Festival 2022; currently, she works as Assistant Archivist at the Art Museum, University of Toronto. Yehia participated in curatorial workshops (including Tate Intensive 2017), residencies (ProHelvetia and ZKU/Berlin) and curated several projects in Egypt, UK, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Canada. Her curatorial practice focuses on investigating censored archives, questioning inaccessible histories, and navigating militarised spaces. Fatma is the winner of the Apexart international open call 2023-24.
Rui Pimenta practiced as a visual artist from 2000 – 2014, exhibiting his work extensively in Canada and internationally. Since then his creative focus has shifted towards programming and curation. In 2009, he founded Art Spin, an arts organization now entering its 13th year of presenting site-specific, multidisciplinary programming in unique/alternative spaces and best known for its bicycle art tours. He was the Co-Director for Median Contemporary (2008-10) and has curated projects for the Toronto Artists Project, the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition, Eastern Front Gallery and the Government of Portugal. He has served on various arts council juries, was a member of the City of Toronto’s Public Art Strategy Advisory Committee and currently sits on The Bentway Advisory Committee. His curatorial aspirations are largely motivated by the enthusiastic pursuit of creating engaging and accessible ways to present art in public space.
Calder Ross is a Stage Manager and Designer with over 10 years of experience executing events and arts exhibitions. With a background in building and construction, Calder has developed an ability to see the project vision and work collaboratively to deliver a polished and well constructed final product. For Art Nest, Calder evaluated and analyzed the technical requirements, safety, and liability requirements of each work, and liaised with the building permit engineer and artists to ensure the artists’ ideas were attainable.
Art Nest 2022
Art Nest was a new TOAF programming initiative that provides six artists – having either current or past experience participating in TOAF – with an opportunity to push the boundaries of their individual art practices beyond the physical and conceptual limits of the fair’s iconic 10 x 10 square foot tent.
Curated by Rui Pimenta
Participating artists: Julia Campisi, Sofia Escobar, Kal Mansur, Rod Mireau, Aline Setton, Erin Vincent.
Photography by Shane Fester.
From the Curator
We find ourselves in a time when so many ideas around monumentality and permanence in public art are being questioned and dismantled. Equally important is the question of who the intended and excluded audiences are, not to mention the obstacles so many artists face when it comes to gaining access to opportunities for creating art for the public realm. Art Nest looks to contribute to these conversations through this diverse collection of newly commissioned artworks that explore the meaning and future possibilities of public art, as well as the general public’s role in that relationship.
Building futures & other things, 2022, Hand-dyed acrylic, epoxy and resin.
“Art Nest allowed me to create my largest sculpture to date with funding and grants from the Toronto Arts Council & Ontario Arts Council (exhibition assistance). I have been focusing on creating more work that responds to the scaffolding and how our bodies move around temporary structures in urban spaces.”
Julia Campisi is a visual artist based in Toronto who re-makes overlooked items from our industrialized world. She uses the term ‘cultural debris’ to describe the mundane objects, which she makes in prefabricated acrylics and liquid plastics. Her use of material and subject matter speak to ideas surrounding consumption and development, finding metaphor for human existence in the utilities that mediates it. Her re-makings are not merely an act of reproduction but a subversive gesture that is meant to disrupt the complex archaeology and relationship we have with objects, material and ultimately ourselves. Julia Campisi has exhibited works in Toronto and abroad, including New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Ottawa, amongst others. Her artwork has been published by New York Magazine, Junior High Magazine in Los Angeles, and her written articles have been published by CBC Arts, The Artist and Viewer in Toronto. Her work can be found in private and public collections including the Ottawa Art Gallery and Bisha Hotel.
Intervals of thread and the optics of space, 2022, Paracord rope and steel
Macro Weave, 2020, Thread and acrylic.
“I had a very wonderful experience at art nest. As an artist working in Installation, it was really great to be able to express my work on a larger scale, where the confinement of a tent was not a limitation. I was really drawn by the rich history and architecture of Nathan Phillips square, which was the basis of my research. Rui Pimenta, who carefully curated the project, was a great help throughout the process from start to finish. During the duration of the project, we got to share our work with the public and experience being part of a wonderful community of artists that TOAF has forged over the years.”
Sofia Escobar is a Toronto based artist born and raised in Peru and Ecuador. She completed her studies at OCAD University in Toronto in 2014, majoring in Material Art & Design, and specializing in Fibre. Driven by an ongoing interest in material and space, Sofia uses textile construction techniques and processes, to build intricate interwoven thread sculptures that explore themes of architecture and optical illusion. Her recent work explores new ways in which textiles could behave with their surroundings through material language, technology and participatory exchanges with the viewer. By using non-traditional materials and technologies such as acrylic and laser cutting, Sofia harnesses the broad versatility of textiles, and takes the medium beyond the utilitarian perception that is commonly tied to it. By adding projected light to her objects, Sofia further expands these intricate sculptures beyond their physical forms into the non-physical realm of light and shadow. Signaling an extension into the realm of abstraction, these sculptures become dynamic entities, opening a liminal space for the viewer to explore the works, but also themselves.
Admiral Ackbar, 2022, Mixed media sculpture.
Land Escapes, 2022, Acrylic and resin on panel.
“It was productive to be part of a curated exhibition of outdoor artworks. Art Nest pushed my boundaries as an artist, as I had to create robust large-scale outdoor public artwork.”
Kal Mansur is best known for his luminous wall works that combine painting and sculpture. Materials such as acrylic, cast acrylic, and epoxy resin are combined to create cohesive, elemental pieces of art. He uses transparency like a brushstroke, varying its application to refract available light. Mansur completed his BFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990. His work has been commissioned by Tiffany & Co., Bonjour Capital, George Brown College, Related Companies, among others. His work is in the permanent collection of Global Affairs Canada and was part of the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2020. He lives and works in Toronto.
Dig, 2022, Aluminium and ash wood.
“It was interesting to take part in the artist talk on the final day. I enjoyed hearing about the process and the project development from the other artists.”
Constructed of wood and metal, Mireau’s sculptures form a balance between the organic and the geometric while playing with gravity and scale. Mireau was born in Saskatchewan and is currently based in Peterborough, Ontario. His work is held in collections across Canada and the USA, Germany, and United Arab Emirates. He also creates commissioned work for public and commercial spaces.
Plan View: a look into the eye of a building, 2022, Wood and concrete.
“Art Nest at TOAF61 gave me the opportunity to expand my creative practice and merge many fields of interest into one work. The sculpture created for the show is in direct dialogue with architecture, urban infrastructure and everyday objects.
Following Art Nest, I was invited to exhibit the work at other events, such as the Geary Art Crawl, where I was able to experiment with different configurations of the original sculpture to allow for public interaction. It has been a great experience to test the possibilities of this project.”
Aline Setton is a Brazilian artist who lives in Toronto. Her studies in architecture appear as a base that ends up unfolding in her works. In her paintings, collages and sculptures, she deconstructs and rearranges elements of the landscape with an emphasis on the connections established between overlapping layers. Most recent works explore dialogues between the body, architecture and objects, investigating how spaces inform body movements and vice versa. Her work has been exhibited in Brazil, Canada, Portugal, USA, and she has received the “Best of Painting Award” at the 58th Toronto Outdoor Art Fair.
BRISTlL FORM no.1, 2022, Natural fibre, dye, foam, acrylic on board.
Protect The Strong: 2, 2022, Bronze, fibreglass, acrylic, faux rocks.
Rubber Form, 2022, Recycled rubber.
“Participating in the Art Nest was a fantastic experience and opportunity. I had been wanting to shift my practice by incorporating more public art projects and this was the perfect platform. By bringing art to the public in a non-traditional setting it allowed me to witness a more diverse audience interacting with my piece.”
Erin Vincent (b. 1977, Canada) is a Toronto-based artist whose work draws on a variety of repetitive and labour intensive processes and materials. Things have always fascinated Vincent; attracted to the abject and discarded she de-categorizes them and removes established hierarchies. The sculptures she makes possess their own liveliness through heightened tactile qualities. Erin completed her MFA at York University, focusing on sculpture and installation. Vincent has exhibited her work in Canada, the United States and England, with representation by Christie Contemporary (Toronto ON), Muriel Gupien Gallery (NYC) and Karen Imperial Gallery (San Fransisco). Her work is held in Canadian and International collections and she is the recipient of the following grants – 2021 Canadian Council – Research and Creation, 2019 Visual Arts Mid Career – Toronto Arts Council, 2019 Visual Arts – Ontario Arts Council and a 2016 SSHRC.
Rui Pimenta practiced as a visual artist from 2000 – 2014, exhibiting his work extensively in Canada and internationally. Since then his creative focus has shifted towards programming and curation. In 2009 he founded Art Spin, an arts organization now entering its 13th year of presenting site-specific, multidisciplinary programming in unique/alternative spaces and best known for its bicycle art tours. He was the Co-Director for Median Contemporary (2008-10) and has curated projects for the Toronto Artists Project, the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition, Eastern Front Gallery and the Government of Portugal. He has served on various arts council juries, was a member of the City of Toronto’s Public Art Strategy Advisory Committee and currently sits on The Bentway Advisory Committee. His curatorial aspirations are largely motivated by the enthusiastic pursuit of creating engaging and accessible ways to present art in public space.